May 21, 2014, 1:38 AM EDT
Years and even decades of struggles came to an end on Tuesday, when the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 to approve a new Entertainment and Sports Center that the Kings will call home as soon as the 2016 season. This is the final vote on the arena and demolition of a failed mall at the new arena site in Sacramento’s downtown will commence immediately.
Tuesday’s vote was marked by all-day celebrations including appearances by owner Vivek Ranadive, point guard Isaiah Thomas, and a host of local figures that were instrumental in keeping the team in town.
Sacramento had tried for years to come to an agreement on an arena with the intransigent Maloof family, who lost the means to own an NBA team and desperately sought to relocate as a solution to their financial woes.
The team was eventually sold to Ranadive after Seattle billionaires Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer tried to cut a quick deal with the Maloofs, which the league rejected because of its preference to keep the team in Sacramento. The Maloofs begrudgingly sold the team to Ranadive after it was clear that they had no other choice.
Kings fans have dealt with relocation threats for many years and their grassroots efforts to keep the team were well-documented. Their local politicians and business leaders made a concerted effort to keep the team in town. That support was the difference between keeping the team and suffering the fate of other cities like Seattle that did not want to play ball on the issue of public funding for state-of-the-art arenas.
While the topic of public funding for arenas is controversial, what isn’t in doubt is that Sacramento put its time and money on the line and the city deserves tremendous credit for keeping its team. Tuesday’s vote leaves just one last step in a long journey – opening night.
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